We’ve all likely seen the Gartner hype cycle for emerging technologies curve. I remember many, many years ago when I first saw that curve. I don’t even remember what it was about, but it had the Peak of Inflated Expectations, and then the dip down, and then the path to nirvana. That curve stays relevant over time because it is so true. NFV is currently in the Peak of Inflated Expectation area, or possibly just beyond, and starting its journey to the Trough of Disillusionment.
No matter where NFV is on that curve, it will change the telecom industry. I just don’t believe it’s right around the corner and will change the industry by the end of 2016. Like any new technology, there are challenges that need to be addressed head on and tackled. And the industry will tackle them, and overcome them before all of this becomes a reality. I’ll address some of these challenges from a perspective of a vendor supplying NFVs. I’m sure carriers will have additional challenges they’ll face.
First and foremost, there are many vendors, including Dialogic, that have telecom infrastructure products in the form of software. But just because these products are software does not mean that they all interoperate together into one big network function. In the new paradigm, a network diagram would look something like the graphic.
There are familiar elements, such as a Media Resource Function (MRF), an Application Server (AS), and a signaling Interworking Function (IWF). But in the new network architecture, they are all pieces of software running in cloud environments connected, and controlled, and interworking seamlessly. While the picture looks nice and all buttoned up, the reality is that we’re talking multiple vendors needing to interwork together to form an NFV, at lower levels than previously defined. For instance, in any carrier network, there are likely to be hardware boxes from a wide variety of vendors, all talking to each other. Standards play a vital role here. But the amount of interaction is limited compared to a NFV model. In an NFV model, where virtual network functions (VNF) may be best of breed, the amount of inter-vendor interaction is likely to be many, many more times complex than exists today.
This is clearly a challenge that will need to be overcome before NFV really takes off. Next week, I’ll address that challenge.